Swedish skipper Andreas Jonsson insists his side has “nothing to lose” after they reached their first Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final since 2012 with a shock win in Gniezno, Poland on Saturday.
The Swedes triumphed on 40 points, beating red-hot favourites Poland into second to join hosts Denmark in the Final at Vojens next Saturday.
Poland scored 36 and now contest the Monster Energy SWC Race Off at Vojens on Thursday, along with third-placed Russia, who tallied 27. The Czech Republic exit the competition on 20.
The Poles were cruelly reduced to three riders after losing their captain Jaroslaw Hampel to an horrific crash in heat four. The two-time FIM Speedway World Championship silver medallist broke his leg in two places after straightening up when Russian rider Vitali Belousov fell under pressure from Sweden’s Linus Sundstrom as they charged into turn three.
Jonsson, who scored eight points, was far from happy to win in such sad circumstances. But he hailed team mates Sundstrom (12), Antonio Lindback (11) and Peter Ljung (9) for seeing the job through.
He said: “I’m really sad about what happened to Jarek, especially as we’re team mates at Zielona Gora in Poland, and he is such a good friend of mine. I really feel sorry for his situation and for Poland as a team. I know how difficult it is to lose a rider so early in the competition. We definitely feel for Poland and Jarek.
“The Poles were really fast out there. They definitely know their way around this track and we couldn’t relax. We had to keep going. I’m happy about everyone’s performance. Everyone had some good races and that’s what it’s all about. The whole team have to score together. I’m really happy for everyone. Now we’re in the Final and I feel we have nothing to lose there. Our goal this year in the SWC is to get a medal and I hope we come through.”
Polish team manager Marek Cieslak and his young riders were floored by news of Hampel’s injuries.
But they picked themselves up to produce incredible performances, as FIM Speedway Grand Prix star Maciej Janowski and Przemyslaw Pawlicki scored 13 apiece, while Bartosz Zmarzlik bagged 10. Cieslak confirmed Grudziadz rider Krzysztof Buczkowski joins the young guns in the Race Off, and he hopes the meeting will serve as the ideal practice for Saturday’s Final if they can get through.
He said: “Jarek has broken his leg and this is not very nice for us, so we are thinking about Jarek now. He has broken it in two places – it is a very serious injury. If you lose your captain in his first ride, there isn’t much chance to get a good result. I’m very happy with my guys. They worked as a team and they went very well. Winning the Race Off could be the best way to get to the Final. That’s if we win of course.”
The Monster Energy SWC action switches to Great Britain on Monday, when Team GB, Australia, Latvia and the USA battle it out at King’s Lynn to join Denmark and Sweden in the Final.
MONSTER ENERGY SWC EVENT 1 SCORES:
SWEDEN 40: 1 Antonio Lindback 11, 2 Andreas Jonsson 8, 3 Linus Sundstrom 12, 4 Peter Ljung 9.
POLAND 36: 1 Jaroslaw Hampel 0, 2 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 13, 3 Maciej Janowski 13, 4 Bartosz Zmarzlik 10.
RUSSIA 27: 1 Andrei Kudriashov 2, 2 Artem Laguta 11, 3 Renat Gafurov 5, 4 Vitaly Belousov 9.
CZECH REPUBLIC 20: 1 Vaclav Milik 12, 2 Eduard Krcmar 2, 3 Tomas Suchanek 3, 4 Matej Kus 3.